A Thursday night Zoom conference hosted by the Coalition of Canadian Palestinian Organizations has highlighted difficulties faced by Palestinian Canadians and the hypocrisy between Canada’s policy and practice on Palestine and Israel.
Over 250 attendees heard from a number of guest speakers including NDP MP Matthew Green and NDP MP candidate Beisan Zubi.
The panelists spoke about both lived experience and research into Canada’s relationship with Palestine, pointing out Canada’s fickle support of Palestine.
The wording of Canada’s policy on Israel and Palestine appears supportive on paper, renouncing Israeli settlements and stating Palestinians have a right to self determination.
However Canada has consistently voted against resolutions critical of Israel’s occupation and routinely supports decisions that would deter Palestine from reaching an equitable solution.
Dr. Mark Ayyash, the second panelist, says Palestinian Canadians and allies are hesitant to announce Palestinian identity and support for the Palestinian struggle for fear of censorship and backlash.
He added that public discourse on Palestine in Canada is highly superficial, and that the general public remains uneducated on the topic.
“Canadians avoid honest conversations about Palestine because they don’t know enough, and they don’t know enough because they avoid honest conversations about Palestine, and this needs to change,” he said.
Ayyash continued criticizing the Canadian media coverage while covering Palestine, citing an open letter by Canadian journalists calling for Canadian media to accurately and thoroughly cover Israel and Palestine and include context and nuance.
Other speakers including spoke about racism, both casual and deliberate, that they have faced domestically, and overall times where they have felt muted on the topic.
Beisan Zubi, running for MP in Kitchener, spoke about facing racist verbal assaults from strangers but also having to suffer through racist jokes from people she considered friends.
Zubi and others also asserted the fact that being pro-Palestine is not anti Semitic.
The speakers emphasized throughout the conference the need to keep the Palestinian struggle in conversation, and make conversations about Palestine normal.
A representative for Queens Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR), said people can make personal choices with what they buy to avoid companies that profit off of apartheid as well as joining protests and writing your local MPs.
“As a collective I think we can come together at actions or protests and make a bigger impact say for instance in Kingston at City Council or at Queen’s to even further divest from Israel which isn’t really all that much.”
The full conference can be found on CANPALORG's Facebook page.
Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News